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Old 12-01-2005, 11:50 PM   #81
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garth Herrick
Hi Virgil,

The enigma about Vermeer to me is the way he almost foretold photography in his uniquely rendered highlights, diffused as though he were viewing his reference through some lens or camera obscura. Perhaps he was simply wearing some sort of ill fitted spectacle. But at any rate he had a unique, original way of representing luminosity in some of his paintings. This has nothing to do with perspective, however.....

Garth
Garth,

That aspect of one or two of Vermeer's paintings is what the advocates of the optical device theories always point to as if it were proof, but all it really is is a clue, and one that can be interpreted in other ways as well. Diffusion of images, or parts of images, is not unique to optical devices. Our own eyes see things that way under certain circumstances.

Vermeer scholar Arthur Wheelock has backed off from asserting that Vermeer worked from camera obscura projections, and now only postulates that he might have looked through some sort of optical device at one time or another and found the effects agreeable enough to inspire him to mimic them in his paintings. This, too, is speculation, however. Hockney has also recently recanted his earlier assertions regarding Old Masters allegedly tracing from projected images, after having been soundly refuted by several scientists, including Dr. David Stork, of Stanford University.

A camera obscura is a dark chamber. That is the literal translation of the term. I want to know how anyone can paint in the darkness and end up with as highly realistic a result as Vermeer's paintings exhibit.

In Vermeer's time, art students learned to draw, and one could not become recognized as a Master by the Guild of St. Luke without demonstrating proficiency at both drawing and painting. The Guild controlled the trade, and only a Master could conduct business as a professional artist and/or art teacher. Vermeer was not only recognized as a Master by the Guild, he was elected to its top position. It is therefore reasonable to surmise on that basis that Vermeer could draw very well. Artists who can draw very well do not need to trace from projected images. I have no trouble attributing excellent results to extraordinary talent alone.

Vermeer was a Master. He exhibited a superior understanding of the principle of selective focus in his paintings, equalled only by Rembrandt a generation earlier. That understanding is sufficient to explain the optical phenomena in question, in my estimation. There may well have been a connection between Rembrandt and Vermeer through Carel Fabritius. Fabritius had studied with Rembrandt, and subsequently lived in Delft.

Virgil Elliott
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Old 12-02-2005, 01:08 AM   #82
David Carroll David Carroll is offline
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Garth,
I have a piece I
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:08 AM   #83
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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Dave,

I have that book too. It's another instance of scholars going out too far into the realm of conjecture on too slender a basis, and then overstating their case with misleading language. What they consider "convincing," I consider much less convincing. All it is is speculation.

I had a personal experience that quite likely stems from the same line of thinking that produced that speculation. Long ago, another artist in my acquaintance began speading rumors that I worked with a projector. It wasn't true, and when I asked her why she said that, she said she felt my work was too realistic to have been done freehand, so she deduced that therefore I must be using a projector. Well, the fact is that everything I did was done freehand by eyeball judgment, including the things this lady couldn't believe were done without a projector. So I see a similar psychological mechanism at work in the minds of these scholars who cannot draw or paint with Vermeer's precision themselves, so they surmise that Vermeer must not have been able to do it freehand himself. From my perspective I have no trouble envisioning him doing it all by unaided eye and hand, with talent as the enabling factor.

A picture can be art, or it can be just a picture. What makes art special is that each work of art is unique, the product of an individual artist who sees and expresses himself/herself in an individual way. Each is different, and that is why it's valuable. That individuality, that distinctness, is compromised when any part of the process is circumvented by the use of a machine instead of the artist's eye, hand, judgment and interpretation. Each artist adjusts as he/she draws, consciously or intuitively doing it in a way that no one else does, and the result will not be the same from one artist to the next when things are done the natural way, even when working from the same model.

Suppose there are ten thousand painters all working from projected photographs. How much will the personal individuality of each one of them come through in the work? I maintain that they will be too similar to one another, not distinct enough from one another to be identifiable as one particular painter versus another who works the same way with the same approximate equipment. It is precisely that distinctness that gives art its value. Photographs are less valuable because they are the product of a mechanical process to a much greater extent than a painting, which is (or ought to be) the product of the mind and creative processes of an artist, i.e., a uniquely talented individual.

So with that in mind, the question is, do you want to just make pictures, or do you want to make art?

Virgil Elliott
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:34 AM   #84
David Carroll David Carroll is offline
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Thanks Virgil, I believe I understand what you are saying, and I don't think we are very far apart on this issue. Although I continue to work from photo's I take in my studio, I much prefer to work directly with models or from nature. I frankly do not enjoy the process of painting from a traced image for exactly the same reasons you have stated. In many ways it has become a tool from my past, not because I think it's cheating, but because it diminishes the joy of facing an empty canvas and seeing what happens. I draw with my local open figure drawing group and I am able to draw pretty well, but unfortunately for me I do not get the same sense of joy and pleasure from drawing that I get from painting. Drawing for me is exercise, that builds strength in every other creative endeavor I pursue.

Peace, Dave
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Old 12-02-2005, 10:38 AM   #85
Tom Edgerton Tom Edgerton is offline
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Hey all--

I finally got down to reading this thread, and it's very informative. Also interesting to follow the debates.

By the way, Kim, thanks for pointing out Kinko's. I've used them to blow up designs for my house, but not in my painting. If you wanted to use one of the methods Sharon outlined, they might be easier to find than an architectural copy service.

I don't have a problem with measuring tools or tracings and such, as I think that keeping yourself from what's useful and efficient to make a philosophical point is misplaced energy. As a European colleague once observed in reference to the computer, "You Americans mistake tools for skills." They're not the same thing. A tool, whatever it might be, will never make one an artist, it will only aid in the process (or not). I've related this anecdote in the Forum before, but it's become a real touchstone for me.

So, I don't believe that any given tool is more or less artistically "pure" than another. Any failing in my art isn't a result of the wrong tool, it's a failure of my vision.

My path with all of this went this way: I used to use all kinds of methods to get a detailed mechanical tracing, but it became a principle of diminishing returns--it seemed that the more points I plotted, the tighter and stiffer things became. So now, I use a variety of tools to get a very broad contour drawing on the canvas as quickly and accurately as possible, and then finish a more detailed, comprehensive drawing within this by eye and hand only. But I also measure relentlessly as I need to. I found if I rushed and skipped this second drawing, and tried to paint over a tracing only, I was always out in the woods and the painting took forever, with many corrections and repainted passages. Tracings alone can be a trap--you think they hold more information than they do.

When I make myself draw the more detailed freehand rendering, two things happen:

1) I understand the structure and anatomical underpinnings of the subject in a more fundamental way, so the likeness in the painting comes very quickly. Even though the drawing is completely covered very early, I have a "sense memory" of it underneath.

2) As I explore the subject with this second freehand drawing, I begin to see where even the slightest deviations or alterations from a slavish copy can enhance the expressiveness and character of my subject. In other words, I see "how their face works" by shoving it around in the drawing.

Also, I've found I rely less and less on laborious measurement with tools as I develop a more accurate eye. But the tools were an aid in this progress, at least at first. My speed has increased organically and naturally, as Richard Schmidt predicted it would in his book.

However, when I paint quick studies from life, I paint with only a brush and my thumb to measure. It's painting without a net and it's a whole other animal. As Richard found in his library sketches, it either goes swimmingly, or falls totally apart. But it's exhilarating. I don't do it often enough.

In a workshop I took one week with Burt Silverman, we drew in the morning and painted in the afternoon, both from life. He is always stressing how drawing your subject--a number of times if possible--sets up the exploratory environment and psychological relationship with your subject that always informs any subsequent painting for the better.

Best to everyone--TE
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Old 12-02-2005, 11:06 AM   #86
Garth Herrick Garth Herrick is offline
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Tom,

Thanks so much for a really insightful and helpful reply. I am in agreement with you in my current evolution. I have used and explored many useful transfer tools and methods without shame or regret. They have helped me to grow and mature and interestingly, become less reliant upon them over time. But I feel I have gained so much from their use and exploration.

Feeling more securely grounded, I am not using much in the way of "tools" at the moment, and feel good about that too. I still reserve the right to use all or any if I wish, though. Tom, as you say, being less rigid and specific in the start of a painting is more freeing, and opens up possiibilities of better expression. I think we are doing something similar at this point.

I still can't resist rechecking my hand and eye from time to time. There always are corrections to make through the refinement and development of a painting, and being less specific and rigid in the beginning helps to make the inevitable corrections and revisions easier to absorb and flow into the structural context of the painting.

Again, thanks for your experienced insights!

Garth
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:15 PM   #87
Clayton J. Beck III Clayton J. Beck III is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Carroll

Also I will paint directly from my monitor first drawing with brush and paint, and just paint as if I was doing a session with a model.
I am in awe of the excitement a post on how to work from photos generates. I am equally in awe of the fact that only David Carroll has proposed the idea that if you want it to look like it was done from life, one must think the same way as working from life. Put one's photo next to the canvas, just as one would a sketch being turned into a painting and use the photo as what it is, namely a reference. Paint just as though working from life and the work will be much more alive than if traced.

Others have mentioned the idea that the grid method seems to be just as mechanical as the tracing. I agree. There is no art in either. Don't get me wrong. These are useful tools if not regarded as the one true method of drawing and not relied on as the only way to get a likeness.
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